Obesity outweighs protection conferred by adjuvanted influenza vaccination

Erik A. Karlsson, Tomer Hertz, Cydney Johnson, Andrew Mehle, Florian Krammer, Stacey Schultz-Cherry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Obesity is a risk factor for developing severe influenza virus infection, making vaccination of utmost importance for this high-risk population. However, vaccinated obese animals and adults have decreased neutralizing antibody responses. In these studies, we tested the hypothesis that the addition of either alum or a squalene-based adjuvant (AS03) to an influenza vaccine would improve neutralizing antibody responses and protect obese mice from challenge. Our studies demonstrate that adjuvanted vaccine does increase both neutralizing and nonneutralizing antibody levels compared to vaccine alone. Although obese mice mount significantly decreased virus-specific antibody responses, both the breadth and the magnitude of the responses against hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) are decreased compared to the responses in lean mice. Importantly, even with a greater than fourfold increase in neutralizing antibody levels, obese mice are not protected against influenza virus challenge and viral loads remain elevated in the respiratory tract. Increasing the antigen dose affords no added protection, and a decreasing viral dose did not fully mitigate the increased mortality seen in obese mice. Overall, these studies highlight that, while the use of an adjuvant does improve seroconversion, vaccination does not fully protect obese mice from influenza virus challenge, possibly due to the increased sensitivity of obese animals to infection. Given the continued increase in the global obesity epidemic, our findings have important implications for public health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01144-16
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016


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